Local football game will be interesting for wrong reasons

Tonight one of the most interesting high school football games in the country will be played literally down the road — about two miles — from me. Unfortunately, it will not be interesting in a positive way.

You see, one of the top teams in its class in Texas will play arguably one of the worst, in a playoff match. The team that makes it, sadly, interesting is 0-10. That’s right. It has a 0-10 record this season and makes the playoffs. That is because there are only four teams in its district and the school’s classification allows for four playoff spots per district. And it just gets worse. The Spartans of Houston Scarborough High School also have an unenviable 57-game losing streak.

The Goliath to the Spartans’ David is West Orange-Stark. It is a “football powerhouse” — to put it in trite sports-speak — for its division. This is despite the Mustangs have twice been beaten in non-district games.

The WO-S losses came from a school in a larger division and another from a smaller division, the latter is my high school alma mater as a matter of fact. Both teams are ranked in their respective Top 10 in the same year-end poll.

That the Spartans are playing West Orange-Stark at the neutral site just two miles away from me has nothing to do with the hubbub that has landed Scarborough in nationwide media outlets this week. That the Spartans are meeting the Mustangs or any team at all, “that’s the ticket,” as long ago Saturday Night Live  Jon Lovitz character Tommy Flanagan “the Pathological Liar,” would say.

Such a scenario as that for the Spartans stirs up the hard-core fans who listen to sports talk radio and who despise that whole “Every kid gets a trophy” mindset. What really is behind the changes that added playoff spots at the same time divisions based upon school enrollment were reconfigured? One stated reason by the University Interscholastic League — the University of Texas System-run entity which governs public school athletic and academic competition — is the addition of divisions and added playoff spots will create a “perfect storm” of football that will let all championships take place on the same weekend. Well, kind of. The two Division 1A, or six-man football team championships, will happen the weekend before.

All 12, yes 12, playoff games will occur at the Jerry Jones palace to football, a.k.a. AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

 “Having all football championship games in one location truly makes for an amazing experience for the coaches, athletes and fans, and last year it lead to a Texas high school football attendance record,” said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt, in a press release. “We are excited to return to AT&T Stadium and continue to improve on a world class event in the state of Texas.”

And I am sure that all the games on the Dallas Cowboys’ turf will make for one big Jerry-load of money to be spread around — likely from the UIL, the schools, TV, and not to mention Jerry Jones.

Some coaches argue that allowing more teams a playoff spot can be good for the team and the fans, that the kids can actually get better by competing in a playoff game. Maybe so.

Or, it could mean that teams such as Scarborough will add needlessly to its long string of defeats and be blown out of the water by ridiculous scoring margins.

I have kind of mixed feelings over the “every kid gets a trophy.” I won’t elaborate due to the complexity of my sentiments. But I think, regardless of the outcome of WO-S versus Scarborough tonight just down the street, the pitfalls can be many with four playoff spots in a district that ranges from four to seven or so. The quality of the game can change where lopsided scores are the norm and the confidence of young players sink instead of rises.

Lots of luck to the Mustangs and Spartans tonight. The wind chill right now is 37 F, pretty cold for late fall here in Southeast Texas. Dress warm!